Sunday, February 3, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Accident: Enigma of "Concrete Pumper Truck from Australia"

The US airlifted a concrete pumper truck from Australia to Japan but the Japanese government wouldn't allow it to travel to Fukushima because the vehicle was not licensed to travel on Japanese roads, says a US nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, according to New Jersey Newsroom.

It is a plausible enough story, given the similar incident where TEPCO/Toshiba could not (or would not dare) drive on the highway in a truck full of special batteries that might have tremendously helped Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant during the earliest days of the accident, because they couldn't obtain a permit from the government.

From New Jersey Newsroom (1/31/2013; part):

Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans
Thursday, 31 January 2013

...Information was hard to come by, exacerbated by the rigidity of the Japanese bureaucracy. Two nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, who has worked as a consultant for the NRC and industry, and Ed Lyman, a nuclear physicist, have examined thousands of government emails and cable traffic during a confusing period where the data base shifted by the hour and concrete information was hard to come by.

“After the explosion in Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4 the Japanese were not able to get enough water into the building to keep the spent fuel pool cool,” Lochbaum said. “So the US airlifted a concrete pumper truck all the way from Australia to an American naval base in the northern part of the island. And the Japanese would not let it leave the base because it wasn’t licensed to travel on Japanese roads. Given the magnitude of their problems, that seemed to be the wrong priority...”

Here's what I've found (and wrote) about the Putzmeister concrete pumps sent to Fukushima, from publicly available news sources:

Fukushima I Nuke Plant got Putzmeister cranes, two from the US with 70-meter boom (the world largest), two with 62-meter boom from somewhere else.

One of the 70-meter boom cranes was being used at the construction site of the U.S. government’s $4.86 billion mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site. Ashmore Concrete Contractors, Inc., based on Augusta, Georgia, owned the crane.

The other one was from Associated Conrete Pumping in Sacramento, California. According to McClatchy News (4/8/2011),

Mike Parigini, the 60-year-old founder and owner of Associated Concrete Pumping in Sacramento, has sold his nearly 190,000-pound pump back to its maker — Putzmeister America Inc. of Sturtevant, Wis.

Putzmeister America officials said Thursday that Parigini and a Georgia concrete contractor "made the pumps available upon learning of the need in Japan."

They were transported on the Russian-made cargo plane and arrived in Tokyo on April 11, 2011. They were promptly moved to Putzmeister's office in Chiba, using the Japanese roads, where TEPCO workers were being trained on using them.

A slightly smaller, 62-meter boom Putzmeister crane was sent from SANY Heavy Industry in China. According to SANY's press release from March 20, 2011, the company received the mail from TEPCO's then-president Masataka Shimizu that TEPCO wanted to buy the crane from SANY to use at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. SANY offered the crane free of charge, and shipped it to Osaka. The crane should have arrived in Osaka on March 24, 2011, according to the SANY press release.

According to Putzmeister's May 23, 2011 press release, two cranes with 62-meter boom were sent from Germany. The press release says the very first putzmeister crane arrived in Fukushima on March 22, 2011. The head of Putzmeister Japan was able to convince the Japanese government of the pump's potential capabilities on March 15, 2011. A 58-meter boom crane was then diverted from the delivery to a customer in Vietnam, and went to Fukushima.

None of the above offers were made by the US government or the military; rather, the offers to ship the Putzmeister cranes to Fukushima were made by private companies.

If anyone knows anything about the concrete pumper from Australia transported by the US government, please let me know. Maybe it's in the documents disclosed by the US NRC last year.

Moving on for now to another puzzling comment in the New Jersey Newsroom article: "an American naval base in the northern part of the island".

The northern most American naval base in Japan is in Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture. So what naval base in the northern part of Japan is the article talking about? There is the Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.

By the way, China's SANY has since bought Putzmeister in January 2012. Good thing the Senkaku Islands row started with China well after the March 11, 2011 nuclear accident, many Japanese may say.


Anonymous said...

Anything is plausible as long as truth remains stranger (stupider) than fiction.

Anonymous said...

Was only a select few in the Japanese government allowed to know and hold the truths about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and didn't want to admit to the severity of the failure?

Why, because it was embarrassing?

I know the US was more than happy to send boron and arrange for the concrete pump truck and even hardened it for remote use in heavy radioactive conditions before finally delivering to Japan.

The errors of Japan are obviously wrapped in chains of history...children shouldn't be allowed to split atoms.

Anonymous said...

@1:04 Adults (US, Russia, France etc.) should not be allowed to split atoms either, remember TMI and Chernobyl? not to mention that the Japanese goverment has so far pursued nuclear power with the full cooperation and encouragement of the US.

Fukushima disaster has its roots in the cozy relationship between the government and the industry, in extracting profit out of the externalization of the nuclear risk: sounds peculiar to Japan only??


JAnonymous said...

Largely unrelated but vastly interesting. A nice headline on the bbc (yes, really) : "Sellafield clean-up cost reaches £67.5bn, says report"

Good luck Cumbria.

Now the thing is, adults won't have to pay for this, it's children and children of children...

We say let's split atoms to make some steam, and then be gone before it stinks.

Nuclear generated electricity is only cheap if you don't include :
- building costs (government subsidized, and check out the latest 3rd and a half generation reactors in finland and france)
- up front research (national research centers, taxpayers money again)
- waste disposal (a figure that we can't even name yet, as we have no idea. Will have huge maintenance fees though)
- decommissioning (US mothballing a heap of reactors while they wait for their "investment money" to grow over a few decades, gl with that)

The total cost is very high yet unknown. The choice ? we don't get a say. We entered the nuclear power generation path a while ago, and are all trapped. By people who have already passed away.

Smartest thing now is to stop it all before there is a serious accident on every nuclear-powered continent... errr... almost there anyway. And watch the decommissioning price pile up (we can still have a race with debt, on a log scale).

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